How Space Jam 2’s Sonequa Martin-Green Pays Tribute to the Real Queen James

Star Trek: Discovery’s Sonequa Martin-Green hopes Space Jam: A New Legacy brings cross-generational joy and honors Savannah James, the real-life matriarch of the James family.

Sonequa Martin-Green in Space Jam 2
Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures

Actress Sonequa Martin-Green has plenty of experience when it comes to being in franchises with established fanbases. She starred in seven seasons of The Walking Dead as Sasha Williams. Now she is the current captain on Star Trek: Discovery and is set to take her already iconic character, Michael Burnham, to another level. 

Her latest role in Space Jam: A New Legacy adds another beloved title to her resume. She plays Kamiyah James, a character who is a force to be reckoned with and a reflection of the real life matriarch of the James family, Savannah James. The focus of A New Legacy is family, which allows Martin-Green’s Kamiyah to shine in the moments that call for her to show her dedication to her family and their well being. 

We recently spoke to Martin-Green about Space Jam: A New Legacy and how she hopes it brings cross-generational joy to lovers of the original Space Jam and newcomers to the franchise. 

In Space Jam: A New Legacy, you play the role of Kamiyah James, LeBron’s wife and mother of three. What else can you tell us about her as a character? What was it like working alongside LBron James in his first leading role? 

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I love this character. I love Kimayah James. I was really impressed and inspired by the character on the page, because I think it’s just so compelling to see this woman as the matriarch of her home and the nucleus of her family. You see her leading with strength and ferocity, but also with grace and kindness. I love that she knows her family so well. She knows exactly how to speak to her children, exactly how to speak to her husband. She’s strategic in that way. 

I just appreciate that you see very clearly that these two have a very beautiful partnership. They co-parent in their family really beautifully and successfully. I love that the success of the family couldn’t happen without Kamiyah. And it’s something that you don’t really see too much of in the original film, right? This family dynamic and the family itself being the root of the story is something new to this iteration. I just loved it. I was so moved by it and I really do believe that it’s paying homage to the real James family and Savannah, Queen James herself. 

You’re a wife, mom, and a bit of a superwoman yourself. How much of yourself do you see in Kamiyah James? 

You know, I hope that there’s a lot. I hope that there are lots of parallels between me and Kamiyah because it’s a lot to be the matriarch of a family like that. A family that is in the public eye that way, that takes its legacy so seriously, and where the parents have such a hand in the community and in community outreach. I think that it’s a lot to manage. I hope that I could manage as well as Kamiyah does because I’ve got my six year old son, my almost one-year-old daughter and I’ve got my husband. We have our goals and dreams for community outreach and making positive change in the world. I hope that there are similarities.

What type of an impact do you hope Space Jam: A New Legacy has on kids and parents? 

I hope that it brings people together, and I hope that it has the same impact that the original did, which is a tall order, but, you know, I must say, I do think that it has the potential and the capability of doing that. 

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Joy is a big part of the first film. And I think it’s a big part of why it’s stood the test of time. Now I think we’ve gone bigger and deeper, so now it’s not just joy, it’s also family. That’s at the root of it all. I hope that people are moved by how the story has been modernized, and I hope that people can enjoy it together. I hope that it’s a cross-generational enjoyment.  Especially now as the world is opening up. I hope that it’s something people can connect with. 

Space Jam: A New Legacy isn’t the first project you’ve done that is an update on an already beloved movie or TV show. Does it feel different coming into a project with a built-in fanbase? How does that impact the process, if at all?

Great question. It is a different experience altogether because as an actor, you come into something and you want it to be fulfilling. But you do want it to have an impact, right? The thing is, you can’t predict that. You can’t predict impact. You can’t say this is how it’s going to affect the people who see it. 

Everybody’s so different. Everybody brings their own everything to a story. But when you come on board to a franchise that is already solidified, and that has been solidified for multiple decades, well, now you already have the impact. It’s already there. So now it’s a different journey getting into the story, because now you have to get around the fact that this thing is already big and already huge.

So now you want to do it justice, right? You want to create, but you’re not creating in a vacuum. You’re creating with something behind you. It can be overwhelming. There’s a lot of pressure there. 

So what I have realized, because God has blessed me with three huge franchises and two of them that were old franchises. I have to give myself that moment to freak out and be overwhelmed and realize, oh my gosh, I just want to do it right. I have to feel that to the fullest so that it can pass through me so that I can then approach it as the singular story that it is.

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Do you recall the first time you watched the original Space Jam and what that experience was like for you? 

Oh, my goodness. My mind was blown. I was 11 and I couldn’t take it. It was amazing to me, especially when Bugs showed up. Oh my gosh, when they went to  Michael Jordan’s house, my mind was so blown. I could not believe what I was seeing. I remember thinking, oh my gosh, this is one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen. I remember thinking that because the Looney Tunes were a big deal to me. Saturday mornings, right? So yeah my hope and prayer is that kids and adults will have that same experience that I did. And that so many of us did with the original, with this one. 

Space Jam: A New Legacy premieres in theaters and on HBO Max on Friday, July 16.